Gulen Science Academy Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Turkey’s Sunni Muslim Brotherhood Islamist leader, Premier Erdogan, this June could become the country’s first elected Executive President modeled on the US and France. It would give him enormous powers furthering his goal of creating a neo-Ottoman Caliphate. Erdogan’s former ally, Sufi Sheik Muhammed Fethullah Gülen launched a major split in December 2013, after Erdogan banned non-state run preparatory school. This was, aimed squarely at the Gulen academies, a major source of the multi-billion dollar Gulen Movement (GM) global empire. The GM supplies Turkish nonimmigrant foreign workers to more than 1,000 private preparatory schools in over 100 countries, including more than 135 Charter schools in 20 states here in the US.
The expat Sheik Gulen, a resident alien, occupies a fortified compound in the Poconos Mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania. In retaliation, GM followers in Turkey’s public prosecutors and judiciary launched a series of investigations against Erdogan. The investigations revealed extensive family involvement with funneling funds via Saudi global terrorist financier for Al Qaeda –backed militias in Syria, bribery payments on major construction projects, illicit gold for gas trades with Iran and muzzling free speech with shutdown of Twitter and You Tube. Recent municipal election victories in Turkey in late March have paved the way for changes in the country’s basic Constitutional law enabling Erdogan to seek the new form of Presidency. That could have his AK party extend its power a decade beyond the current 11 year tenure of the Islamist party in Ankara’s parliament.
What we have in Turkey today is a contest between two Islamists. Erdogan, seeking to convert the country into a Caliphate with a one time election to an executive Presidency, versus, Gulen “the world’s most dangerous Islamist” slowly perfects the same goal.
The GM connection here in the US is of interest, because of the controversy over the movement’s control of dozens of Math and Science academies operating with US taxpayer funding as charter schools. According to one source there are more than 135 Gulen charter schools with an enrollment of 45,000 students in over 20 states in the US. The staffs of these US charter schools are manned by Turkish Gulenists who enter the US under the H-1B visa program. There have been expose’s on the US Gulen science academies in Texas and elsewhere published by the New York Times. The Gulen Harmony Schools in Texas received $30 million in grants from the US Department of Education “Race to the Top” program.
We posted on an FBI raid of a Gulen science academy in Louisiana. Because of the problems with the Gulen charter schools, many states have either passed or are considering legislation that would control the proportion of H-1B Visa staff employed at Gulen-sponsored charter schools. The Gulen movement charter school program has been supported by the Gates and Walton Family Foundations. The Walton Family Foundation contributed more than $1 million for Gulen schools in California, alone. Former President Bill Clinton has gone on record supporting the GM interfaith dialogue and educational development program in 2008. GM members were alleged to have contributed to Hillary Clinton’s failed Presidential Campaign in 2008.
Gulen’s immigration status came into question in the same year, 2008, in actions brought by the US Department of Homeland Security. Note what the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) reported:
In 2008, negative U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service decisions threatened to deny Gulen’s application for permanent residency. A federal court reversed the rulings after receiving 29 letters on Gulen’s behalf. One of those letters came from [Prof. John] Esposito [of Georgetown University]… after his Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding received donations from the [GM] and sponsored a conference in [Gulen’s] honor.
We noted in a December 2013 Iconoclast post a report by Christopher Holton on the FBI investigations into Gulen Louisiana charter schools and the efforts by a Texas-based GM charity to stop legislation controlling the influx of Turkish adherents under the H-1B visa program:
The story broke in Baton Rouge media that the Kenilworth Science & Technology School had been raided by the FBI.
The FBI indicated that the raid, which evidently was conducted to gather material evidence in the form of documents and computers, was not a matter of public safety. As a result, it probably was not related to a report earlier this year that a teacher at the school was accused of having inappropriate pictures of children on his cell phone.
Had those charges stuck, that would have been the second scandal of a sexual nature involving a Gulenist school in Louisiana. Abramson Science & Technology Charter School in New Orleans was shut down back in 2011 in the wake of a scandal that started as an investigation into sexual activity involving students at the school and evolved into a possible public bribery investigation. Abramson operated under the same charter organization that Kenilworth operates under: Pelican Educational Foundation.
During the course of the investigation into Abramson, Pelican’s ties to the Gulenist movement were revealed.
[ . . . ]
State Representative Cameron Henry in the 2013 legislative session … filed a bill that would have limited the number of employees hired by Louisiana state-funded charter schools who were in the country on H-1B visas. Henry’s legislation would have gotten right to the heart of the matter – with a very reasonable restriction that no more than 3.5 percent of the school’s employees be H-1B visa recipients (or 1 in 29), and that the people or groups submitting requests to start charter schools be American citizens.
Unfortunately, Henry’s bill hit hard where it hurt for some powerful, politically connected people in Louisiana. It seems that the number one donor to the Louisiana Republican Party in 2012 was none other than a Gulenist organization out of Texas. Kemal Oksuz, president of the Turquoise Council, a Texas-based group closely related to the Gulenist movement and the Harmony charter schools in that state, donated $83,000 to the state GOP, making him its largest donor during 2012.
Fast forward to the current 2014 legislative session in Baton Rouge and the re-introduction of restrictive legislation aimed at employment of nonimmigrant Turkish workers in Louisiana charter schools.
HB 1243 was introduced by Reps. Hodges and Pope, in the Louisiana legislature in late March 2014. The bill’s purposes are to establish conditions for “approval of certain charter school proposals and provides relative to prohibitions on the employment of nonimmigrant foreign workers in charter schools, with exceptions.” The bill denies” approval of charter school applications if staff positions with nonimmigrant foreign workers unless the charter school plans to take affirmative action to recruit, select, employ, and train nonimmigrant foreign workers regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national ancestry, or national origin.” The legislation defines a non immigrant foreign worker as ” as an individual who has a visa pursuant to certain provisions of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965’. Further it states that “non-immigrant foreign worker” shall not mean a teacher who spends more than half of his time providing instruction in or teaching a foreign language.”
Similar legislation was introduced in the 2014 Mississippi legislature. HB510 contains similar bars against employment of nonimmigrant foreign workers. Section 37-28-47 1. (b) of the, Mississippi Code of 1972, would be amended as follows:
A charter school may not staff positions for teachers, administrators, ancillary support personnel or other employees by utilizing or otherwise relying on non-immigrant foreign worker visa programs. However, a charter school may submit a request to the authorizer for an exception allowing the employment of a non-immigrant foreign worker before the worker is employed. The authorizer may grant permission for the employment of the non-immigrant foreign worker only if the charter school makes a satisfactory showing of efforts to recruit lawful permanent residents of the United States to fill the position and a lack of qualified applicants to fill the position.
In May 2011, we were asked to prepare a presentation to brief the Tennessee House Speaker about the GM charter schools investigations at that time and the purported abuses of the H-1B visa program for nonimmigrant foreign workers, see here. In May 2012, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam allowed the law restricting the employment of nonimmigrant foreign workers for Charter schools approved by the state despite his misgiving and those of the State’s attorney general in an October 2012 opinion indicated that the provisions might be unlawful under the equal protection provisions of the US Fourteenth Amendment. A Knoxville News .com report on the 2012 Tennessee legislation noted its provisions vis vis foreign interests, including funding as well as restriction on employment of nonimmigrant foreign workers:
The governor announced on May 2, 2012, that the bill restricting foreign interests in charter schools would go into law without his signature.
Under the act, which takes effect July 1, 2012, a chartering authority may not approve an application if a school plans to rely on “non-immigrant foreign worker H-1B or J1 visa programs in excess of 3.5 percent of the total number of positions,” if operators of the proposed school have been affiliated with other schools that have been “subjects of investigation by any government agencies for questionable use of non-immigrant foreign worker visa programs,” or if the school is controlled by foreign nationals. Certain provisions of the law do not apply if the chartering authority is a local education agency and the agency itself uses foreign worker visa programs to fill more than 3.5 percent of its staff.
The law also states that charter school applications and renewals shall disclose all sources of private funds and all funds from foreign sources.
The emergence of restrictive employment of non-immigrant foreign workers will take a long time to be adopted by Louisiana and Mississippi, notwithstanding the relatively quick adoption in Tennessee. Given the battles in Turkey between the AK party of Premier Erdogan and former ally Sheik Gulen there will doubtless be intense pressure to place GM Turkish adherents through its global private academy and charter school network.
There is a further compounding factor that should be considered. The attractiveness of investment in private run charter schools to so-called entrepreneurial immigrants under the EB-5 Visa system. In exchange for a $500,000 private investment, the investor receives an immediate green card. Note this Reuters article, “The new US visa rush: Build a charter school, get a green card”:
Wealthy individuals from as far away as China, Nigeria, Russia and Australia are spending tens of millions of dollars to build classrooms, libraries, basketball courts and science labs for American charter schools.
In Buffalo, New York, foreign funds paid for the Health Sciences Charter School to renovate a 19th-century orphanage into modern classrooms and computer labs. In Florence, Arizona, overseas investment is expected to finance a sixth campus for the booming chain of American Leadership Academy charter schools.
And in Florida, state business development officials say foreign investment in charter schools is poised to triple next year, to $90 million.
The reason? Under a federal program known as EB-5, wealthy foreigners can in effect buy U.S. immigration visas for themselves and their families by investing at least $500,000 in certain development projects.
The GM has latched on to a good thing in the Charter School system here in the US. It provides a platform for indoctrinating American children in its form of Turkish Islamism supplying employment for GM adherents. The EB-5 system would bolster investment in Charter Schools not only by the GM but also by the Muslim Brotherhood perfecting its form of Da’wah to Somali émigré children. That occurred in Minneapolis with the Muslim American Society control of the Tarek Ibn Zayed Academy subjected to a suit by the Minnesota branch of the ACLU in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Let’s see if these bills can make it through the Louisiana and Mississippi legislatures in the waning days of the 2014 sessions. Those legislative bills and the Tennessee law are a work in process that other states with GM charter school problems might consider investigating as remedies.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.